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Local church hosts coat giveaway

Mindy Clotfelter, outreach director for First Baptist Church of McDonough, displays a like-new child’s jacket that will be among the items given away Saturday at the church.

Mindy Clotfelter, outreach director for First Baptist Church of McDonough, displays a like-new child’s jacket that will be among the items given away Saturday at the church.

Members of a local church are aiming to warm hearts this fall as they embark on a drive to get used coats and jackets on the backs of those in need.

First Baptist Church of McDonough is planning to host its first "Coat Giveaway" on Saturday, from 8 a.m., until 4 p.m. The event organizer, Mindy Clotfelter, said the giveaway is designed to put warm coats and jackets in the hands of school-aged children in need, free of charge.

The event is a continuation of efforts to address the increasing needs of area residents suffering from a sluggish economy, according to Clotfelter, also the outreach director at First Baptist.

"We have far more people who are coming to us now, looking for assistance," said Clotfelter. "That's how bad things are out there with the economy."

The Henry County School System has felt the impact deeply, as school officials report mounting numbers of students who are financially challenged.

Lynn Moses, the system's homeless liaison, reported last spring that of the 40,311 pupils enrolled in the public school system, 48 percent meet federal need-based requirements for free or reduced lunch. She said the number classified as homeless was 868 in April 2011, up from 743 students the year prior.

Clotfelter said the church's outreach ministry teamed up with the system late last spring to collect unclaimed "lost and found" items from area public schools.

In late June, she said, volunteers with the church gathered the unclaimed items -- mostly sweaters, jackets, and coats -- from several schools. The church's youth volunteers helped launder, dry clean, and sort the clothing items over the summer.

"We only picked up from about half of the schools," said Clotfelter, observing the mounds of jackets and coats stacked in the church.

She said some schools indicated they donate lost-and-found items to non-profits or throw them away. The latter, she added, happens more frequently.

As she sifted through the loads, she found lunch boxes/bags, hats, and gloves that fit children five years old, to 18 years old.

"There's more boys stuff than girls' stuff, because girls are better at keeping up with things," said Clotfelter.

The outreach director said the items will be redistributed Saturday, when the public is invited to attend and select from the items available. Items not collected will be donated elsewhere.

"We need to find every way that we can to save and conserve and use the resources that we have at hand," said Clotfelter, who noted her hope to get more area schools and churches involved next fall.

Saturday's Coat Giveaway begins at 8 a.m., and continues until 4 p.m. It will be held in the parking lot at First Baptist Church, at 101 Macon St., in McDonough. To learn more, call (770) 957-5828 or visit the church's web site at www.fbcmcdonough.com.